greensword: (this bunny is checking livejournal)
I've had a couple of really good discussions recently about what it means to be a Jew, and how as an American diaspora Jew one is supposed to relate to Israel.

Judaism is a quirky sort of religion, in that it doesn't really require belief, per se. Nor does it require a specific set of practices. I don't believe in God, or that any of the stories of the Torah really happened. I don't keep kosher or go to temple. I don't know Hebrew or Yiddish. And yet, I'm Jewish.

Even if I converted to another religion. I would still be Jewish. And even if I never told my children I was Jewish, they would still be Jewish.

It's such a tenuous connection in some ways. What does it mean to be Jewish, if it is such an unchangeable state of being? I didn't ask for it. I can't help it. Why should I feel any responsibility for or special compassion for my fellow Jews? But I do.

I don't think any one arbitrary group of people are better human beings than another. But the tenets that a group lives by, and their shared history, can shape their behavior. And that's why I've never really rebelled against this arbitrary thing I am, this random label that's applied to me. Because so far as I can see, being Jewish is a good thing.

Like I said, there's nothing you have to do to be a Jew. But there are things we have tended to do.

Jews don't proselytize. We don't try to convert you. I mean, not only do we not hang you upside down and slowly drown you in buckets of water until you believe what we believe - we don't even try to pressure you at cocktail parties.

Jews understand suffering. Of course we understand it - we have lived it. And I don't even mean the Holocaust. I mean 2,250 years of suffering. From that comes - at least, I hope - a natural sympathy for the discriminated against, the oppressed. On passover, we dip our fingers into our wine and take out ten drops, one for each of the ten plagues visited upon the Egyptians. We lessen our joy out of respect for those who have suffered - even when those who suffer are the very people who enslaved us. Because we understand that all suffering is wrong. Not just because it was done to us, to Jews. It is wrong, period.

I won't pretend to be an expert. Or to speak for other's conceptions of Judaism. But this is my understanding. These are the thoughts that have made me comfortable and happy in identifying as a Jew.

And so the actions of Israel recently have been... almost disconcerting. Because this is not what Jews do. We don't use our superior power to harm others at little risk to ourselves, because their lives are more expendable than ours.

Maybe this is because in two thousand years we have never had a land of our own to defend. Maybe this is because we have never had the power to harm others. Maybe all we were waiting for is the opportunity. But that's a depressing thought.
greensword: (Default)
I wrote a post and LJ ate it. I weep for the depth and profundity that has now been lost. The salient points are, however:

1) What Hampsters want to play football in this year's homecoming? Kitty, Erik and I have started to form a team. Also, a plug for the masquerade ball, because the only thing better than football is dancing. Actually I don't like either.

2) I may go to Chicago for Jan Term and stay with my sister and her boyfriend. Now I just need to find something to do there. And get some more long underwear. Christ on a pogo stick, I'd be living beside Lake Michigan. Why don't I ever go anywhere warm during winter break?

3) *facepalm* So, it looks like the front-runner for Senate Minority Leader is a moderate from Nevada who doesn't believe in a woman's right to choose. Remember what I said about how the Democratic Party is going to stop running to the center? Apparently that was bullshit.

4) Statistics on the youth vote. Not bad, but by all rights we should be doing better than Seniors. After all, we've got to deal with this country long after they've left this world.

5) It's interesting to scan my friendslist and see all the tears and the despair and the OMGWTFBUSH. And then to go to my email, and read these two messages:

From my Dad. )
From my Grandparents. )

My grandparents lived through McCarthy. My father lived through Nixon. Of course, not everyone agrees that we're living through similar times, but for me, it's good to know that all things pass eventually.


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November 2009

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